Tata Open Maharashtra: Cilic survives scare to enter last eight


Roberto Carballes Baena took some shaking off by World No. 17 and top seed Marin Cilic, who was playing his first match of the new season. The thrilling 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 contest put the tournament favourite into the quarter-finals at the fifth edition of the Tata Open Maharashtra at the Balewadi Stadium in Pune on Wednesday. Baena played a solid match, before Cilic ended the resistance.

The crowd would welcome Cilic back to Pune noisily, but Baena had serve breaks on his mind – Cilic got away in the first set, but was left hopping a tad as the ball zipped through the air.

“Always important to start well and a win like that gives a lot of positives. We are coming through the off-season, working hard and practising. But it’s not the same when you come to the court,” the Croat said later.

A couple of upsets panned out. World No. 60 Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi packed off last year’s runner-up Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland 6-1, 7-6 (4) while World No. 62 Spaniard Pedro Martinez came from behind twice for a 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 victory over fourth-seeded Argentine Sebastian Baez, ranked 43.

Mercurial No. 8 seed Arslan Karatsev of Russia was stretched by Dutchman Tim van Rijthoven 7-6 (7), 7-6 (8). The Netherlands’ breakthrough star Botic Van De Zandschulp sent away Italian youngster Flavio Cobolli 7-5, 6-4.

Botic too was banking on good preseason work to pull him through two stiff back-to-back matches. “I had preseason so hopefully, I am fit enough to play a couple of matches in a row,” he said.

Struggling at first, to find his radar, he would eventually string together a bunch of good games and start playing well when he fell behind against the qualifier. “He (Cobolli) already had three matches, so it was easy for him. When I was 5-2 behind, I started playing my best tennis. In the second set also, I was 4-1 behind but did a good job out there,” he would say, playing his singles match almost 16 hours after the doubles last night. “In the day, it’s different. But it’s good to get a match on the Centre Court, makes the next one easier,” he added.

Martinez had to haul back his game from a pool of mistakes, as he found his range in the second making fewer unforced errors. It was his second straight three-setter. “I’ve had a good preseason for such situations training in my hometown. It was gym to court, court to gym… And I worked a lot on fitness and movement on court,” he said.


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